When I was offered a chance to try some ready meals by Ilumi, as part of their 'Boost Your Energy Meal Plan' I couldn't say no. They offer a selection of nut-, gluten- and milk-free foods made with healthy, natural ingredients and as someone who loves food - I was very curious to see, if their dishes are tasty and as good as they sound. I was also interested in the plan, because my mother in law and my younger sister are allergic to gluten and complain about most ready meals containing unnecessary ingredients etc. For one week, I switched to gluten free porridge for breakfast, soup/casserole for lunch and a curry/tagine with rice for dinner. I want to make it very clear, that I didn't intend or expect to lose weight with this meal plan and I realise that some bloggers who took part in this challenge misunderstood the full concept of the plan. It is meant to boost your energy levels, reduce bloating and make you feel better in general, due to eliminating gluten from your diet. It is not a FAD diet!
First of all, I am a very healthy eater- I am obsessed with clean eating and most of my meals consists of unprocessed, healthy foods and I eat a lot of vegetables, fruit and fish. I don't drink cows milk, because it makes me feel horrible and I think that humans are not meant to drink it anyway. I also exercise regularly (3-5 hours per week) to stay fit and to lose weight. Just like I said before, this meal plan is not a 'diet', although you can incorporate it into a weight loss journey (like I did).
I requested dishes without red meat, because as an ex-vegetarian I am fussy with meat and prefer eating fish and chicken. The plan costs £40.00 per week and includes 7 lunches, 7 dinners (5 with rice as a side), a box of gluten free porridge, a box of gluten free oat cakes, a box of gluten free oat biscuits and 2 gluten free beers.
You can follow the meal plan or decide what dish you want to eat every day and switch things up. Because I requested non-red meat dishes, my meal plan was up to me. If you add your meal plan to the basket, you can remove dishes you don't fancy and switch them to something else etc. It is all about your personal preferences.
You are advised to eat 3 meals a day and 3 healthy snacks, including the oat cakes and oat biscuits, which wasn't really my kind of idea of healthy. I avoid all sorts of biscuits in my diet and have fresh fruit and veg as snacks. I had some of the oat cakes as a side with my soups and some of the biscuits with tea, but I shared the rest with my son and he really enjoyed them :)
I am not a fan of alcohol either and I wasn't too excited about the gluten free beers to be honest. I tried one bottle to see, if I like it, but I didn't... I will probably use the other bottle for cooking in the future.
Ilumi dishes contain a lot of veg, but to make sure you get enough fiber, I would advise you to add some fresh or steamed veggies to your meals or eat them as snacks. I love veg and I was adding them to most of my dinners anyway. I need my 5-a-day every single day and I don't make exceptions! It is all about being healthy and knowing what's good for you. I really liked the idea of being able to pop my meal in the microwave and enjoy it without making a mess in the kitchen. I love cooking, but it is good to take a break from it sometimes. The food pouches can be stored in your cupboard and have every single ingredient, calorie content and cooking instructions listed on the front, so you know exactly what's in your food and there is no small print, or added nasties you can't even pronounce. I like that!
I found all of the dishes really yummy, but they needed extra seasoning and spices sometimes. It wasn't a problem for me though and I understand that people like different amounts of seasoning etc so the best way to cater for everyone is to be safe with seasoning. The only problem I had was being a bit bored with the similarity of all the dishes. Not their flavour, but the format. It was like eating a curry/soup/casserole twice a day and after a couple of days, I wasn't too excited. I like a variety of dishes. It was fine for a week, but I can't imagine doing the plan for a longer period of time. What I am planning to do, is to order my favourite Ilumi dishes and eat them a couple of times a week, because I already miss them. They were soooo yummy! You can see some of my favourites below:
I had Nairn's gluten free porridge for breakfast every day and added different fruit and seeds to it to make it more exciting, healthier, more filling and less boring. Just like I said before, I don't drink cows milk so I was using Almond Milk or coconut milk and water in my porridge. I must admit- I actually prefer gluten free porridge. It has a nicer texture and tastes more creamy. Yum!
I am not a biscuit person :) I had a few of the Oats & Suryp ones and they were ok, but my snacks of choice that week were fresh fruit, raw veggies, nuts and seeds.
From all the soups I have tried, my favourite was the Spicy Harira Soup. It is REALLY SPICY though, so not for those who like mild dishes :) I loved the chickpeas, beans and lentils in it and it was very filling. I had two oat cakes as a side, but I wish I had a gluten free roll or baguette with it :) This soup contains 249 calories and needed extra salt (I use pink Himalayan rock salt)
Another super yummy soup was the Tom Kha Gai Soup. Oh my... it was sooooo creamy! The serving was really small, but the creaminess made it super filling. I had rice cakes as a side, because I couldn't eat it alone :) haha. This soup was slightly higher in calories - 353. It needed salt an pepper and I also added some dried coriander.
One of my favourite dishes from the whole selection was the Moroccan Style Vegetable Tagine. It is absolutely delicious! At 303 calories, it makes a perfect lunch served on it's own or a lovely dinner, if served with a side of veggies. I had mine with sweet potato and peas. Yummy! It only costs £2.75 - definite repurchase!
My other favourite is the Cardamom Chicken. Fragrant, creamy and filling! Just like other dishes, it needed seasoning. I also added fresh coriander to it and it made it taste like a restaurant dish. The curry alone contains 341 calories, but it is meant to be served with rice.
The Chicken Cacciatora is an Italian dish, so it was a nice change from all the spicy/indian style dishes I had. It is very mild, but surprisingly delicious and I served it with a portion of Birds Eye Golden Vegetable rice.
Sooo.... After a week of eating totally gluten free foods, I haven't really noticed a difference in my energy levels or less bloating etc. Just like I said before, my lifestyle is very healthy, so I didn't expect to feel any better, just the same as usual :) If your lifestyle is normally unhealthy and you feel bloated and tired, you will definitely notice a difference, if you start eating regular, healthy and balanced meals. I would avoid the biscuits and beer, but I found the actual meals really tasty and super easy to prepare. If you are allergic to gluten, I would definitely recommend trying out some Ilumi dishes as a healthy option for lunch at work or a quick dinner when you are busy. The quality of the dishes is amazing and they have been developed by the same people who developed the Selfridges and Marks and Spencers meals - if you've tried their ready meals, you will know that they are really tasty and nutritious.
If you read blog posts about people losing weight with Ilumi, ignore them. The brand confirmed that it wasn't their intention to come across this way and some people simply didn't understand the concept. I am not surprised that many of them lost weight, if their lifestyle and diet weren't great before trying the meal plan. I personally had to work my butt off and exercise nearly every day to lose weight during this meal plan and I simply treated it as a very convenient and healthy food option and used the time I would normally spend in the kitchen to do other things.
I am not even going to share my weight loss progress, because this meal plan has nothing to do with weight loss. I am just going to say, that it didn't interfere with my weight loss plan and I managed to stay on track (with regular exercise).
If you suffer from any food allergies or simply fancy trying Ilumi, they are currently offering £10 off your first order (minimum value £25.00) here.
I am not sure, if I included enough information, but if you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask in the comments below.
*I was kindly sent the meals free of charge